Romney’s negative campaigning: is Romney willing to take the party down with him?
“MANCHESTER, N.H. – The battle between Mitt Romney and John McCain in New Hampshire’s Republican primary took a significant turn yesterday as Romney unveiled his first television advertisement attacking McCain’s record,” writes Michael Kranish, with the apt and able assistance of Michael Levenson in a Boston Globe article titled Attacking McCain seen risky for Romney
But the strategy entailed significant risks, possibly turning voters against both candidates and toward another contender, analysts said.
Romney’s negatives are preposterously high, higher than McCain’s. We discuss what it means for someone with high negatives to go negative on an opponent with lower negatives here:
Rasmussen Reports: Romney has the least core support, and the most core opposition of all the leading candidates, Republican or Democrat—these findings predict the sudden and fierce backlash against Romney’s negative attacks on other candidates
Back to Kranish:
The ad calls McCain “an honorable man,” but questions whether he is “the right Republican for the future.” It says McCain favored amnesty for illegal immigrants and opposed President Bush’s tax cuts. McCain, who has revised his immigration proposal and later supported the tax cuts, laughed off the ad as the move of a candidate in a tailspin.
“I was encouraged because it was very clear that Governor Romney attacks when people are catching up with him,” McCain said at a news conference shortly after arriving in Manchester yesterday. “I understand why he is talking about the future, since he spent most of his time running away from his past.”
Last night McCain struck back at Romney, releasing a television commercial that quotes some stinging editorials this week about his opponent. Most prominently, the ad quotes the Concord Monitor editorial published on Sunday that urged voters to reject Romney, saying, “If a candidate is a phony . . . we’ll know it.” The ad also quotes the New Hampshire Union Leader saying that “Granite Staters want a candidate who will look them in the eye and tell them the truth. John McCain has done that . . . Mitt Romney has not.”
By using the words of newspaper editorial writers instead of an anonymous announcer, McCain is hoping to add a tone of credibility and authority to his advertisement.
In response, Romney defended his ad and blasted McCain’s.
“We worked very hard to make sure it was accurate and honest and looks at contrasting issues,” Romney told reporters on his campaign bus in Iowa. “I begin the ad by indicating he’s an honorable man. I believe he is, and a good person. I make no attacks on his character. I make no attacks of a personal nature whatsoever.
“I’ve just seen the text of his ad,” Romney added. “It’s obviously of a very different nature. It’s an attack ad. It attacks me personally. It’s nasty. It’s mean-spirited. Frankly, it tells you more about Senator McCain than it does about me – that he’d run an ad like that” … etc.
Let us pass in review. Romney attacks Sen. McCain. Sen. McCain strikes back only harder. And Romney cries foul? On what possible grounds does this primped, preened, powdered, and pampered little man—a man who would be a complete non-entity were it not for his wealth and life of privilege—believe that he is entitled to lie about and abuse others with impunity?
Back to Kranish:
… David Carney, a New Hampshire political consultant who is not allied with any presidential campaign, said that Romney’s strategy is risky because, even if it turns voters against McCain, it might also turn them against Romney.
“If the ad is so successful it gets people to decide not to vote for McCain, it is highly unlikely they will go to Romney,” Carney said. “In a multicandidate primary race, it doesn’t help the attacker.”
Nonetheless, the ad is reminiscent of one of the most famous ads in the history of the New Hampshire primary, in which George H. W. Bush in 1988 attacked his rival, Senator Bob Dole, as “Senator Straddle.”
Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which conducts polls for the Globe, said it is unclear whether the Romney ad will be effective because McCain has built up his reputation as a straight talker, which Smith said many voters respect “even if they disagree with him.”
We concur with Smith, and argue our case here:
Another point: Romney’s ridiculously low ROI for his every campaign dollar. Will Romney’s negative advertising be as spectacularly ineffective as his other advertising?
Edsall: “Since January 1, 2007, the former Massachusetts governor has spent well in excess of $80 million, including at least $17.4 million of his own money, paying media fees in excess of $30 million, salaries of roughly $16 million, and consulting payments of more than $15 million”—more on Romney’s ridiculously low ROI for his every campaign dollar (iii)
Our conclusion: Romney believes that the GOP nomination is rightfully his. And why not?—he bought and paid for it. Therefore: Romney has demonstrated himself willing to destroy the characters and reputations of his rivals. Our question: How soon—and in what specific form—will the anti-Romney backlash suddenly appear?